“How do I get my wife to clean the bathroom?” The young man asking the question had been married only a few months. The realities and responsibilities of married life were beginning to sink in, and he had come to me with his concerns.
“Who says cleaning the bathroom is her job?” I asked.
He seem startled. “Well, my sisters always did it, and I just thought …”
I said, “I grew up in a family of all boys. Who do you think cleaned the bathrooms in my house?”
My newlywed friend seemed amazed. But when I was growing up, Dad made it clear early on that there was no such thing as men’s work or women’s work. “There is just work that needs to be done, and we do it together,” he would say.
“But I thought that girls were supposed to like that sort of stuff,” my friend said.
“There’s no chemical released in your wife’s body that makes her love dirt or diapers or dishes more than you do,” I responded.
“Well, are you saying that cleaning the bathroom is my job?”
“Who would be doing it if you were living alone without your wife or your sisters?”
“Me, I guess. But I don’t have time,” he replied, still looking for a way to avoid cleaning the bathroom.
“You don’t need to do all the housework,” I assured him. “But once you have mentally accepted a job as yours, you’re in the right frame of mind to ask for—and appreciate—needed help.”
As many married couples have learned, there is a big difference between “Please come and help me clean the bathroom” and “It’s your job to clean the bathroom.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord asks, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. 7:3).
A similar question could be asked in marriage: Why worry so much about what you feel your spouse should be doing when you should be more concerned about what you are doing—or aren’t doing? In any relationship, the fruits of service are sweeter than the fruits of criticism. My young married friend thanked me for the advice and said good-bye. I didn’t see him again for a while, but I knew he was doing just fine the day I ran into his wife.
“So how’s married life?” I asked her.
“Just wonderful,” she replied, smiling broadly. “I’m married to the greatest husband on earth.”
“Really? Does he clean bathrooms?” I prodded.
“Believe it or not, he does,” she responded. “In fact, his motto is that there is no such thing as men’s work or women’s work. There’s just work that needs to be done, and we do it together. Isn’t that great?”
“It sure is,” I said with a smile.